If you are a voracious reader, the idea of becoming a librarian may have occurred to you. The prospect of spending 40 hours a week surrounded by thousands of books is enticing to many bookworms. Contrary to popular belief, librarians do not get to sit around all day reading. Librarians have more duties than most people realize, and they serve their patrons in a wide variety of workplaces. Librarians typically work in one of four types of libraries: public, academic, school, or special. Public libraries are the ones most of us have visited. Anyone who has attended college is probably acquainted with academic libraries. School libraries encompass any in elementary schools, junior highs, or high schools. Special libraries include those run by private groups, and those focusing on specific subjects. All of these types of libraries are possible workplaces for aspiring librarians. Librarians' duties include purchasing collection materials, conducting library services, answering reference questions, dealing with patron issues, and recommending appropriate reading materials. Given the breadth of opportunities available to librarians, this is an exciting and appealing career path.
Things You Will NeedAn inquisitive mind, discipline, and patience.
Step 1Work hard in college.
Future librarians do not need to focus on a specific major; Master's of Library and Information Science degrees attract students who have studied all types of subjects, from the humanities to the sciences and just about everything else. However, you do need to be sure to get good grades and get to know your professors. This will enhance your undergraduate years, which may cement your desire to continue with your education. Academic performance is also a crucial component of graduate school applications. If your university offers library or information science classes for undergraduates, it will benefit you to take them. This will give you an inside look at the profession, and may help you decide if it's a career you want to pursue. Classes in subjects such as English and communications will bolster your customer service skills.
Step 2Apply to graduate school thoughtfully.
Very few librarians achieve their positions without a Master's in Library and Information Science, so plan on going to graduate school. There are many quality programs, but try to pick some that excel in whatever specialties interest you. If you demonstrate your desire to attend a specific school, rather than simply to go to graduate school, your application will be more impressive. Sites such as U.S. News & World Report can help you narrow down your choices, and The Princeton Review offers valuable insight.
Step 3Choose your graduate program carefully.
Gradschools.com is an excellent resource. Make sure you can afford the entire program. Do not plan to pay for a few classes and figure out the rest of the bill later. If a school offers you funding, this is certainly an offer to take seriously. If there are specific professors whom you admire, this should be a consideration. Reputable programs are utilizing both traditional in-person instruction and online learning, so you can choose which method suits you. Check the website of the American Library Association to ensure that your program is accredited.
Step 4Get a job in a library.
Though you will not be eligible to become a librarian until you complete school, it is to your benefit to get a library job. The opportunities for support staff include titels such as library technician and library clerk. The website of the American Library Association provides further information about library support staff. Though the duties may not reflect your ideal job, getting a feel for the library atmosphere is critical. This job will also look good on your resume once you graduate. If you cannot find a paying position, volunteer at your local library.
Step 5Do not select your classes randomly.
Though it is not necessary to select an emphasis right away, if you know from the start that you want to work in an academic library, you should take classes tailored to explore the unique demands of this type of library. It's fine to pursue a variety of options, but approach to class selection should be carefully considered.
Step 6Get good grades and work hard.
Your professors have typically spent time in actual libraries, in addition to their teaching duties. They can offer you tips and advice, and they may even have job leads for you. Some of these professors will require assistants, precisely the sort of work experience that looks especially good on your resume. However, none of these will be available to you if you appear lazy and have average grades.
Step 7Take advantage of your school's career center.
All universities offer career centers, and some of them are quite good. You can get valuable help with your resumes, cover letters, and job searching. Networking with fellow alumni is a key advantage to utilizing your school's career center. The center may also offer a mailing list with job opportunities.
Step 8Keep an eye on the job market.
Certain types of libraries thrive or falter depending on the economy and other social concerns. If you notice a year before graduation that job leads in school libraries are skyrocketing, it is in your best interest to take classes concerned with school libraries. This does not mean you must give up your plan to work in another type of library, but you need to be marketable. Sites such as LIS Jobs, LibGig, and ALA JobLIST are noteworthy resources. You should also consider joining a bulletin board or listserv in order to get help from other librarians. Library Listservs-n-More has a large list of listservs for librarians of all kinds.
Step 9Make sure your computer skills are up to date.
Master's programs for future librarians are called Library & Information Science programs for a reason. Gone are the days when you could learn how to check out books and then forget that computers exist (if those days ever existed at all). It is critical that you feel comfortable using a computer, and doing so extensively, since you will perform many of your job functions using a computer. You may also be required to instruct patrons about how to use computers or how to conduct thorough research using online databases and search engines. It's also a good idea to learn skills such as HTML or PHP. In a tough economy, libraries are more likely to hire you if you have a diverse skill set. A librarian who can update web pages, perform networking tasks, or program computers is an attractive candidate.
Step 10Don't be too picky.
It's fine to have a dream job. But if you get your heart set on a specific type of library in a specific city at a specific salary, you are severely limiting yourself, and you will probably find yourself with no job at all. Though you don't need to settle for a job you don't like for the rest of your life, being flexible, especially as you begin your career, will increase your opportunities for success. References
Best Graduate Schools â U.S. News & World Report -- http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools
The Princeton Review -- http://www.princetonreview.com/
Library Listservs-n-More -- http://www.librarysupportstaff.com/4subscribe.html
GradSchools.com -- http://www.gradschools.com/
The American Library Association â http://www.ala.org
LISJobs.com â http://www.lisjobs.com
LibGig -- http://www.libgig.com/
ALA JobLIST -- http://joblist.ala.org/